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Safer. Healthier. Together

Safer. Healthier. Together

A challenge to WorkSafe and the Accident Compensation Corporation

The ACC action plan, 2016 to 2019, provides little to no evidence of how key indicators related to the reduction of work related serious harm or deaths can or should be achieved as referenced.
• Psycho-social Risks – Bullying, Excessive workload, Lack of autonomy
• Health-related Safety Risks – Fatigue, stress or mental distraction, alcohol/drugs consumption (addictions) (page 11)

To achieve its stated objectives WorkSafe and ACC need to prioritise an action plan of implementation strategies related to these identified areas.
Evidence to date suggests that these focus areas are neglected.
The Psycho-social Risks and Health-related Safety Risks happen across all sectors and at best accounts for an estimated only, 100 - 200 deaths a year and serious harm to 1 in 5 workers at some point in their lives.

Page eleven of the ‘Action Plan’ work related health risks are identified.(but not limited to)
The Focus Areas that need implementation action:
• Focus 5 – ‘Sectors’- all 5 areas identified have the issues as listed above.
• Focus 4 – ‘Cross cutting’ – fails to identify any of the cross-sectorial risks identified above.
• Focus 3 – ‘System change’ (1) Education and awareness and (3) enabling have yet to be actioned in any meaningful way.
• Focus 2 – ‘Key focus’ – there is little or no demonstration of action in these areas.

I acknowledge that I have a potential conflict of interest in challenging these two organisations, as the Founder of a Psychological First Aid program specifically designed to meet at least a part of the stated objectives.
However it was during the development of the program, which enabled a focused, in-depth understanding of the key issues.

To gain an insight, many people have undertaken studies and produced compelling articles that clearly define the problems.
However the information that you would expect to find related to New Zealand, provided by the key player, the Ministry of Health, provide incomplete or confusing data. (health.govt.nz/publication/mental-health-and-addiction-service-use-2015-16).
By their own admission
• Under-reporting of data
• Data quality and interpretation notes
• Coding changes may cause artificial variance and trends
• Data in these tables is not directly comparable to data in other reports
Not included.
• The provision of primary mental health care, such as care provided by general practitioners
• Secondary mental health services funded by other government departments e.g. funded by the Ministry of Social Development
• Problem gambling
• People with a mental illness who do not access services

I have also followed and commented of WorkSafe NZ’s lack of action to Bullying related serious harm reports. The fact remains, WorkSafe have not undertaken any investigations related to the increasing Bulling issue. This simply means there is no evidential basis to help determine what is or isn’t workplace bullying.

Requests to discuss early intervention strategies with either WorkSafe or ACC have proven fruitless.
Discussions I have had with local organisations such as ‘Employers Associations’ and Chamber of Commerce’ have provided positive feedback, but suggest that WorkSafe and ACC could do more to promote early intervention strategies (“much like physical first aid”).
Providers of Psychological First Aid programs report increasing interest and growing participation.
To meet the objections noted in the ACC action plan programs need to focus on
• ALL staff members
• Focused on the “focus areas”
For employers, workers and general public the program needs to address
• Stigma and discrimination
• Needs to accessible, (time wise and location)
• Affordable
• “The elephants in the room”
• Tailored to the participant’s
• Is related to NZ mental health service provisions/accessibility
• Utilises everyday language

Some alarming statistics for New Zealand
• 668 people took their own lives 2017/18 – the forth-consecutive yearly rise.
• WorkSafe NZ has failed to investigate potential Bullying related deaths.
• Its almost 3 to 1 males/females suicide deaths.
• Farmers (male) (per capata) have higher rates that other sectors.
• Finance sector has significant rates of psychological ill health (data is difficult to gather on this sector).
• I in 5 workers will experience a significant mental health problem in their lifetime.
• 142,039 people utilised Secondary (BHB Hospital based) services 2017/18
• 63,682 people utilised Non-government Organisations (NGO) services.

“Decades of not talking about mental health have not worked. By this I mean there has been a lot of focus on talking to people, but little to no talking with people.”

For any of the targets to be meet, both organisations must engage in implementation strategies that are accessible and easily understood by the whole community.


Graham ROPER


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